Teaching Your Son about Sex

You should know from the beginning that if you don't teach your son about his body, sex, and sexuality, his friends will be more than happy to take your place — and far less likely to know what they're talking about. Sex involves far more than a physical act; it is an expression of emotions and intimacy, character and moral values. Your son will be curious about his body and how it works from his earliest years.

Just the Facts, Son

Sex is everywhere in advertising and popular culture; sex is used to sell everything from beer to automobiles, and even prime-time television is loaded with sexual innuendo. Nevertheless, Americans (including parents) can be surprisingly squeamish about sex. It is far easier to educate your son about his body and his sexuality when you are comfortable with your own.

It is best to use accurate terms to describe body parts and functions and to remain calm and relaxed while doing so. Your son needs to know that sex is normal and healthy; identifying body parts clearly and calmly will help. While baby talk is acceptable when he is a toddler, it is best to use terms such as penis or breast as he gets older.

Alert

It often surprises parents to learn that as many as one in four boys is sexually molested. Teach your son that he controls who touches his body and how. Only parents or a doctor (with parents present) should be allowed to touch his private parts; he should feel confident about saying no and telling a parent if he feels uncomfortable.

Children are usually old enough to know about sex when they are old enough to begin asking. Offer simple answers to your son's questions without embarrassment. For example, if your son points to a woman's breasts and asks what those are, you can tell him women have breasts to feed babies. You might even show him a picture of himself nursing so he can understand. Remember, your son does not need all the excruciating details about sex just yet. Keep it simple; you can add information as he matures.

Keep It Real: Talking about Sex with Your Teen

You may remember the day your mother or father sat down with you to have “the talk,” but those days are long gone. Because sex is so widely present in modern life, it usually works best to begin talking about sexuality with your son early. Puberty begins for most boys as soon as ten or eleven, when hormones begin changing both the brain and the body. Keep in mind that boys may feel a great deal of pressure to know everything about sex (or at least, more than their female partners).

Curiosity about sex is normal. Most boys acquire a copy of Playboy or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue sometime during early adolescence. Masturbation and nocturnal emissions (sometimes called “wet dreams”) are also normal as boys mature, but they may hesitate to talk with you about these events. It may ease the process if you begin the conversation yourself. For instance, as your boy enters adolescence, you can let him know about the changes and urges he may experience. (Even moms can have these discussions. Your son may feel a bit embarrassed, but he will be grateful for the information.)

Having a Relationship Versus “Hooking Up”

It is important that you talk early and often with your son about relationships. Unfortunately, most date rape and date violence is perpetrated by boys. Dad, this especially means you: Male role modeling about respect, kindness, and real partnership is essential if your son is to grow up into a man who can enjoy the give-and-take of both sexual pleasure and caring relationships. Be sure that your own attitudes toward women and sex are those your son can emulate, and that your words and behavior toward his mom are respectful — even if you are no longer together.

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